I like to tell stories.
Most of my friends would tell you I’m a storyteller. (Most likely they would also tell you I can’t tell a short story, and that I also don’t know when to shut up. Thank goodness for patient and kind friends, I say.)
But back to storytelling.
I was so so so fortunate many years ago to be shown another way of storytelling than what I learned at university and college. In somewhat of a surprise to me, storytelling could be more than just reading a book to the children, or holding up a big book to show the children the pictures. And it doesn’t have to happen only when children are politely sitting on a circle mat, nor at a particular time in my routine. When it comes to storytelling, the sky is really the limit.
Thank you Katrina, Suzette, Nansi and Jen for your wonderful mentorship in storytelling.
My biggest joy comes from telling stories by heart. I love to take the time and effort to learn a really good, juicy story. I don’t care where the story comes from either. If it is good, and strikes a chord with me based on the musical unfolding of the story rhyme or the delight my tongue finds in pronouncing the words or the theme, I will use it. I love rhyme and the repetition that makes a story sing, and bounces me along in the story adventure with the children. I love the ability to look into the eyes of the children when I’m telling them a story, and having no physical barrier between them and I to interrupt their flow of imagery. I love the challenge of difficult sentences to memorise and being confident that I have all the words in order. I love making up little tricks and tips to help me remember a sequence or a paragraph. I adore making or finding tiny props to fluff out elements of a story sometimes.
What a shame that ‘storytelling’ is not a component of Parent education? I think if we all learned a few basic skills for storytelling, we’d see a whole lot of creatively satisfied, nourished and well-fed parents beaming at their children each morning, their new ideas just about bursting into song and rhyme at the breakfast table. Storytelling can be for us as well as them. (In a few weeks, my Parenting Fun Webinar series will begin and you can bet that storytelling will be one of the weekly lessons!)
One thing I’ve always struggled with is how to store my storytelling props, both for home and at school. I’ve made it a habit to use those A4 size zip-lock bags and store the props along with a paper copy of the story in the bag. Just grab and go. Handy but not always appealing to the eye or to the soul.
Luckily, my friend Tania came up with a much better solution. She keeps an eye out for story-inspired fabrics and sews up a quick square bag with a strap handle to hold all the prop treasures for that particular story. This one is… can you guess? Yes. Little Red Riding Hood (or Red Cap, as it is known in Grimm’s traditional tales.) Can you just imagine how orderly and beautiful a bunch of these inspired story bags would look hanging in a cupboard or stored in a box? Tania, I love it. Thank you.
I don’t have prop bags for every story I tell. A lot of times I use what I can find in Ned’s playroom, or his bedroom, or outside in the garden. I find using these kinds of things in a story can help a child to become a storyteller themselves. If I only use ‘special’ props from a story bag, how is a child able to recreate that on their own? But some stories just lend themselves to creative opportunity for me and making a set of props for a beloved story is lots of fun too. I just make sure to not be too precious with my story creations and remember they are really made for the children. This way, I’m able to leave the props and storybag out for playtime so children can recreate and recall the story in their own way. Particular props for a story can help children to order and sequence the parts of a story, and give them useful guidance on which bit goes where. Can you just imagine the learning that is going on here? All whilst they are just having fun! I love storytelling, don’t you?
This is one of my favourites. Tania was telling the story of Princess and the Pea story to her class of Year 3′s (a group that includes children from disadvantaged families) and made this set of props to take along. I bet that each one of the children wanted a turn to put the pea (can you see it in my fingers?) under the mattress. Story props, especially when their appearance is mysterious and unexpected, can engage children in the listening and doing tasks like nothing else I’ve ever seen. Tania made a bag for these props from a pink fabric covered in castles and turrets.
Fabric stores update their stock regularly. Seasonal ranges appear each year. Pop in at the right time and you’ll find plenty of bunnies, Christmas, fruit, princess and prince and insect themes on display. Quilting and patchwork fabrics offer variations too. If you can’t find what you are looking for, try making a bag from plain coloured cord or cotton drill and either embroidering on a picture, or iron on a transfer.
Next time you are out and about, at a garage sale or a fabric store, check out the fabric range for yourself. I bet you too can find fabrics that suggest a good story topic or one you might use to store a variety of your props or toys. Who knows? A groovy fabric might just inspire you to make up your own story… Now, there’s a challenge for you! Anyone up for it?